NBC Sports officially unveiled their regular season broadcasting scheduling for the upcoming 2018-19 NHL season and hockey fans in some of the United States’ biggest markets aren’t happy with the new changes. Traditionally, strong hockey markets like Chicago, New York, Detroit, Buffalo and Pittsburgh have received the bulk of coverage from NBC, but in 2018-19 NBC has elected to spread their coverage around a bit more.
Team receiving increased coverage in NBC’s 109 game regular season broadcasting scheduling include the Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s a new world,” Sam Flood, president and executive producer of NBC and NBC Sports, told USA TODAY Sports’ Kevin Allen this past weekend. “We need to embrace and celebrate those teams more than we ever have before. It doesn’t take away from those great Pittsburgh-Philadelphia games and Bruins-Canadiens games. We will keep doing those, but we have to lean into some different matchups.”
NBC’s weekly Wednesday Night Rivalry is history and will be replaced with Wednesday Night Hockey which borrows its double-header format from CBC’s wildly popular Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. HNIC has been the gold standard of hockey broadcasting since the 1950s, so it’s no surprise that NBC would look to the CBC for new ideas.
“Sometimes I think, through no fault of anyone, we were looking at the ratings through a core group of teams,” Flood said. “Rivalry Night was successful but some of (the rivalries) don’t have the juice they once did when we started this 12 or 13 years ago.”
In the past NBC was criticized for leaning too heavily on Original 6 rivalries that no longer exist and for not propping up the NHL’s stars enough. That’ll change in 2018-19. Early in the season the network will feature the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets, two traditionally unpopular teams in the United States, but two exciting teams loaded with star talent. This represents a major shift in NBC’s philosophy, and frankly it’s one that not every fan is happy with.
Fans of teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and other teams who typically receive a ton of games on NBC during the season, will have to settle for a smaller selection of games in 2018-19. It remains to be seen whether or not NBC’s bold new strategy pays off, but if nothing else it’s at least encouraging to see the network admit to its past mistakes.